Jan 19, 2016, 11:29 AM
For the first time in the history of media development in The Gambia, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) in partnership with the Gambia Media Support (GAMES) Project Friday graduated 12 students, who successfully completed a two-year diploma in journalism course at the GPU Secretariat.
Funded under the GAMES Project and coordinated by the Gambia Press Union, the course participants who received diplomas were from The Daily Observer, The Point, Foroyaa, Gambia Info and The Standard newspapers.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony held at the TANGO hall, Gibairu Janneh, Secretary General of the Gambia Press Union said the efforts and collective sacrifices of the union over the past two year bore significant fruit for the Gambian media.
“Today the Gambia Press Union is graduating 12 journalists with a diploma in Journalism. Though it might be small, it represents a great accomplishment for the union; with the success of the professional reporter program pilot project, the union can proudly announce that this program is here to stay,” Janneh stated.
According to the GPU Secretary General, the success of the first phase of the project will serve as a catalyst to accomplish the ambition of the union to establish a school of journalism in the country, work on which, he said, is already at an advanced stage.
While addressing the graduands, Janneh said it was not enough earning this diploma.
“What you do with this diploma from now on is the next fundamental challenge. The diploma becomes meaningless if it does not change your professional abilities, because hopes are really high,” he added.
He further noted that the GPU will never relent in building the capacity of journalists, as the union is with the conviction that victory in its battle for free expression lies in enhancing the capacity of journalist to effectively and efficiently execute their duties and responsibilities as charged by section 207 of the 1997 constitution of The Gambia.
Also addressing the graduands, Nana Grey-Johnson, veteran Gambian journalist and writer, said journalism is no longer business as usual in Africa.
He told the graduands that print and radio are still the main sources of news, but the fact is that the digital revolution is on, with the undersea cable being laid around Africa, should tell one that somebody is already thinking about what the future of journalism is going to be in the twenty-first century.
Sam Sarr, managing editor of Foroyaa newspaper, said the mission has been accomplished.
It has been quite challenging, but such is life, he added, further noting that to achieve something which is precious is not easy, as one has to struggle for it day and night.
“You have this achievement, but this is not the end; so I will urge you to be true to the profession. It does not suffice that you to simply arm yourselves and boast that you hold diplomas; you should go further than that,” Sarr said.
Lars Mollar, the training manager from Denmark gave a rundown of the two-year course, noting that it was a challenging task.
While expressing hope that the partnership between the GPU and GAMES will grow from strength to strength, Mr Moller hailed the hard work and commitment demonstrated by the students during the past two years.
Aloa Ahmed Alota, executive director of the Gambia Press Union, said when the program started two and half years ago, the union was skeptical about the success, and had to overcome many challenges to make this today attainable.
Alota said they started with twenty participants, and the fact that they are graduating with twelve shows the seriousness attached to the program.
“Discipline and academic performance were very serious to us,” he stated.
Haddija Jawara, the best graduating student in her valedictory speech, said she joined the media straight from high school to the news room, without any background knowledge in journalism. “As journalists, we are expected to educate the people, and to do that you must have some knowledge to be able to deliver, because it is a noble profession,” Ms Jawara added.